Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/21/2024

Project Features

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This is the third year we have worked with Ilinge Community and the Mwanyani Self-Help Group. Two dams and two wells have been constructed, giving people access to safe water for drinking and a source for irrigating their crops.

However, many people still must walk more than a mile each way to access the new wells and benefit from the dams. So we plan to construct another well and dam to ensure that everyone has safe water nearby.

Go here to view previous projects in the community and see their progress over the past few years.

This self-help group is in the third year of our five-year development program. They were trained during the construction of their first successful sand dam, and have grown immensely since then. But there is still more work to be done, community members say.

"Typhoid is still prevalent because of the ignorance around drinking water treatment. Some of the households have not implemented the tippy taps, dish racks, pit latrine lids despite them having been trained," Mr. Sebastian Mumo said.

"This is purely out of ignorance rather than the lack of knowledge."

The sanitation conditions are poor, found our field officers. They need to boost the levels of hygiene in the area.

The community members do not wash their latrines often which is evident by the foul smell that is emitted from the latrines. Some of the homesteads we visited had tippy taps installed by their washrooms.

Boiling and chlorination are considered the most effective methods of water treatment by the members of this community, however, not all the members practice this habit as they perceive it as costly and they give it less attention.

These areas can improve with the trainers following up with community members in order for them to practice as they have been taught.

Having worked with the group before, they have shown resilience, commitment and the willingness to build another sand dam and well.

This type of intervention will provide the community with a solution to accessing clean water, it will reduce the distance they walk in order to access clean water as well as reduce the risks of contracting waterborne diseases and any other health issues that may arise.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Ilinge Community has been the Mwanyani Self-Help Group, which is comprised of farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members will be our hands and feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.


We’re going to continue training the self-help group members and their communities on hygiene and sanitation practices. Though our visits to households were encouraging, we want to ensure that community members are practicing the day to day habits we are not able to observe during our routine visits. Food hygiene, water hygiene, and treatment, personal hygiene and handwashing will all be a focus during our next review.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river in Ilinge will bring water closer to hundreds of other people. After the community picked the spot, our technical team went in and proved the viability by finding a good foundation of bedrock. Now, our engineers are busy drawing up the blueprints. We estimate the dam will be 25.2 meters long and 5.6 meters high.

We are unified with this community to address the water shortage. As more sand dams are built, the environment will continue to transform. As the sand dams mature and build up more sand, the water tables will rise. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells (check out the hand-dug well being installed next to this dam) will be installed to give locals a good, safe way to access that water.

With these projects, clean water will be brought closer to people.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Sebastian Mumo

This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.

Our team recently visited Ilinge Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that Sebastian Mumo shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life.

Field Officer Dorcas met Sebastian outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Dorcas and Sebastian observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Sebastian's story, in his own words.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?

Water is life, and now with the sand dams and shallow wells in the community, community members' livelihoods have changed. We now plant vegetables for domestic use. Young men are making bricks the water in the sand dams. The rehabilitation of the areas was the sand dams had been constructed raising the water tables; hence water in the well is always available. We do not have to queue for long to get water. Our livestock also gets sufficient water improving their health.

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

With clean water, there few cases of waterborne diseases because the water is clean and is assured that the health of my family is protected. We also have enough water to practice washing of hands.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

Yes, it has changed because now we have to follow government guidelines and make sure that at the different water sources, there are no many people and practice social distancing.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

I would, at times, do business to take care of my family, but that is now a challenge as the demand for the products I sell is low; therefore, low income and I have had to cut expenditure on buying household goods. My children are young, and now they can not go for preschool classes.

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Meetings are restricted, affecting activities like table banking and merry go round gatherings that we attend. In the area, there are increase cases of petty theft because people do not have income.

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community has taken to stop the spread of the virus?

My and family avoid crowded places and prefer staying home, we wear masks when we go out, and wash our hands with soap and water.

Like most governments around the world, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the disease.

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

The movement to cities like Nairobi, the opening of worship places like churches.

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

Opening of schools allowing people with over 58 years old to go to church as most of them act as advisors

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Sebastian listed the radio, television, newspaper, loudspeaker/megaphone announcements, word of mouth, and our team's sensitization training.

What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

With the training, I was reminded of the importance of wearing masks when I have visitors at home because one may not know their health status. We learned about the importance of eating healthy and continuing handwashing.

October, 2019: Giving Update: Ilinge Community Sand Dam

A year ago, your generous donation helped Ilinge Community in Kenya access clean water.

There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Ilinge. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…

February, 2019: Ilinge Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Ilinge Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new dam was constructed on the riverbed, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. Community members also attended hygiene and sanitation training, and plan to share what they learned with their families and neighbors.

Sand Dam

Construction for this sand dam was successful!

"This project will be very beneficial to the members of this community. Firstly, we highly appreciate the site on which it has been built as it will harvest a lot of water. We have already experienced the impact of the project as the sand dam has harnessed gallons and gallons of water!" Mrs. Muthama joyfully said.

The Process:

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand that were required for successful completion of the dam. They also provided unskilled labor to support our artisans. The collection of raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction. For a super large sand dam, materials collection could take up to four months.

We delivered tools and the more expensive materials to the construction site (there are cement bags under the tarp).

Siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority and a survey sent to the National Environment Management Authority for approval before construction started. Once approved, we established firm bedrock at the base of the sand dam wall. In the absence of good bedrock, excavation is done up to a depth at which the technical team is satisfied that the ground is firm enough to stop seepage.

Then mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) is mixed and heaped into the foundation. Rocks are heaped into the mortar once there is enough to hold. Barbed wire and twisted bar are used to reinforce the mixture. Once the foundation is complete, a skeleton of timber is built to hold the sludge and rocks up above ground level. The process is then repeated until a sufficient height, width and length are built up. The vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

As soon as it rains, the dam will begin to build up sand and store water. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile.

It could take up to three years of rain (because sometimes it only rains once a year!) for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity. It is 25.2 feet long and 5.6 feet high and took 460 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was undertaken simultaneously with the construction of a hand-dug well that will give community members a safe method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more sand, a huge supply of water will be available for drinking from the adjacent hand-dug well.

To see that hand-dug well, click here.

Ongoing Training

The last big training held in Ilinge Community was in 2017. Community members met for three days to learn about new hygiene and sanitation practices and important health information. Follow-up visits were made later in the year to assess how households are implementing what they learned. Plans for a review training were made using the information gained during these visits and interviews since we want to continue strengthening the community.

Community members met at Mr. Sebastian Mumo's homestead, who is the chairman of Mwanyani Self-Help Group. The members in attendance were very excited to learn. Before the training began, each member introduced themselves and mentioned a topic that they would like to review. The members were very lively and expressive during the discussions and loved participating in hands-on demonstrations.

We reviewed the following topics:

- how to build a tippy tap handwashing station

For this topic, we discussed the tools that are required for proper construction of a tippy tap using available materials such as: a 5-liter jerrycan, 1 straight stick, 2 forked sticks, 1 meter-long thread, digging tools, a bottle of soap and a nail. Sebastian Mumo demonstrated to the rest of the members how to construct a tippy tap.

Reviewing handwashing at the tippy tap handwashing station

- handwashing

Marrietta Maingi demonstrated how to wash hands. Members observed keenly as they watched and corrected each other. This made the topic interesting and at the end of it, all the members were refreshed on how to construct a tippy tap and on the proper procedures of handwashing.

- how to make soap

The group members were also refreshed on soap-making. The purpose of this activity is to improve hygiene and sanitation as well as income generation. Members took turns to stir the soap and at the end of the activity, they were able to remember the whole process. It was a whole new experience to the members who had never made liquid soap before and some said that soap-making felt like kneading flour.

Mixing soap together as a group

- water treatment methods
- personal hygiene
- latrine cleanliness

"The training was good! We have been refreshed on many things about hygiene like latrine hygiene, water treatment, and soap-making. We appreciate the efforts made to conduct this training as it helped us recall what we learned last year," said Mrs. Muthama.

Mrs. Muthama

"We are very grateful for the support. The training will help us to improve on our standards of hygiene and sanitation."

Thank You for making all of this possible!

January, 2019: Ilinge Community Sand Dam Project Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Ilinge Community still affects hundreds of people. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a nearby water system and much more.

Get to know this community through the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!

July, 2018: Ilinge Community's Sand Dam Preparations

Everyone in Ilinge is excited about their new sand dam. Timing is very important as we ensure that everyone is ready for these big changes in their community, though. The field officers and local leaders have agreed that the right time for construction and training a bit later than we anticipated; everyone would like more time to prepare. We had previously scheduled this project for November but have modified that date to reflect the planning change made by the team. Thank you for standing with us as we continue work in Ilinge Community. We will let you know when actual construction work begins!

We're always open to conversation about our process and are happy to answer your questions. And, if you get a notice like this – it’s actually further proof your gifts are being carefully used towards a water project that lasts.

Project Photos

Project Type

Sand dams are huge, impressive structures built into the riverbeds of seasonal rivers (rivers that disappear every year during dry seasons). Instead of holding back a reservoir of water like a traditional dam would, sand dams accumulate a reservoir of silt and sand. Once the rain comes, the sand will capture 1-3% of the river’s flow, allowing most of the water to pass over. Then, we construct shallow wells on the riverbank to provide water even when the river has dried up, thanks to new groundwater reserves. Learn more here!

Giving Update: Ilinge Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped Ilinge Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Eunice Nthenya. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Ilinge Community 3A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ilinge Community 3A maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

In the past year, Ilinge community members have been enjoying increased water quantity and improved water quality following the sand dam and shallow well project that was implemented in their region a year ago. All the community members can now access clean and safe water with minimal strain.

"Before the construction of this water project we had to walk for 2 kilometers to access the nearest water source. Now the distance has reduced to less than 100 meters because the project is near our homesteads," said Jackson Kyalo, a community member who uses the well.

The water attained from the project is very fresh for drinking, it is safe, and it is also easily accessible at any time of the day. Community members are aware of cost-effective water treatment methods and most of them shared they are boiling their drinking water before consumption which has led to a reduction in water-related diseases.

The environment in the region is very beautiful, serene, and cool with rich green vegetation. Locals have utilized the water for farming, an activity which they have been previously yearning to engage in for years. The area has really changed thanks to the water project and the community members are elated.

At this time in the previous years, the community members would be battling hunger pangs due to drought but now the unlimited water supply has boosted their food security as they have embarked on vegetable farming. This has acted as a value addition to their diets.

"My life is better now since we got water," said Eunice Nthenya, a 28-year-old farmer.

"As a result of the availability of water, I have a vegetable garden which was very hard to sustain initially. I am a very happy woman."

During our recent visit, we passed by a few homesteads before getting to the project's site and the difference observed was admirable. A high percentage of the community members have latrines, handwashing facilities, dishracks, and they have also dug garbage pits to dispose of their trash. This is a very impressive improvement that vividly portrays the seriousness and adaptability of what was trained during the hygiene and sanitation training a year ago.

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Ilinge Community 3A maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Ilinge Community 3A – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation